Education Minister Naftali Bennett received increased personal security Saturday for fear of possible attacks by far-right activists, following the Jewish Home party leader’s criticism of extremist elements in the religious Zionist movement in the wake of an ongoing investigation into a fatal July firebombing in the West Bank village of Duma.
The minister has been given a bodyguard and more security for his home, after reportedly receiving increased threats for expressing support for the Shin Bet security service’s handling of its investigation into a suspected Jewish terror network, Channel 2 reported.
The opposition Zionist Union on Saturday condemned the threats against Bennett as well as those made against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In a Facebook post on its official page, the Zionist Union said that authorities “must deal harshly with anyone who tries to intimidate elected officials and citizens because of their opinions and perceptions.” The party also said that “there should not be a case in Israel where people fear to express their opinions.”
“In a democracy, one is allowed to object to opinions, but we can not threaten or shut them up because of political differences.”
On Thursday, Bennett said in an interview with Army Radio that protesters outside of his home called him a “traitor” for speaking out against violence.
“I tried talking to them and they called me ‘traitor,’” Bennett said of the encounter, which came after he broke his silence this week over criticism of the Shin Bet security service by some in the religious settler camp for its handling of an investigation into the suspected Jewish terror network.
Bennett has slammed critics as “hypocrites,” saying they were supporting “terrorists” who aim to “dismantle the foundations of the state.”
“As part of my position as education minister, I reach out my hand to pull out these confused youth from the trap into which they have been led,” he said. “But of course, whoever is involved in murder — it’s not a matter of education anymore but rather a matter of terror, and [they must be dealt with] with the firmest hand.”
Referring to the fatal firebombing in the home of the Palestinian Dawabsha family in the West Bank village of Duma in July by suspected Jewish terrorists, Bennett drew a distinction between the ideology of the suspected perpetrators and that of the religious Zionist movement as a whole.
“The vision of the murderers in Duma is the opposite view from that of religious Zionism,” Bennett declared.
Only one member of the Dawabsha family — five-year-old Ahmed — survived the attack on their home, and remains hospitalized in Israel. An 18-month-old baby, Ali, was killed on the night of the attack, while parents Riham and Saad succumbed to their injuries in the following weeks.
The police said Thursday that they have also launched an investigation into a wedding video showing extremist Jewish revelers with knives and firebombs celebrating the Dawabsha family’s killings.
The video was condemned by lawmakers across the political spectrum.
A TV report Friday said security has also been stepped up for leading Israeli state prosecution figures, including Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein.